Friday, 30 May 2014

Mulshi dam Satyagraha and Women's Participation

Women have played a very significant role in different struggles in India. However their contribution is not given the attention it deserves. Struggle against the Mulshi dam that began in the year 1921 against the Tata company in Pune district, Maharashtra is one of the first anti dam struggles of the country. The following excerpts from the book ‘Mulshi Satyagraha’, by Rajendra Vohra throw some light on the contribution of women in the struggle:

 “...On Wednesday, 20th April, the Satyagraha was to restart. The satyagrahis therefore assembled at Maval on Tuesday evening itself... On Wednesday morning five hundred women assembled at the place of Satyagraha… Ref : Kesri: 26 April 1921.

  “to stop the work of the Tata company, Satyagraha was to be undertaken at different places...It was decided to stop the supply of material to the company... Bhuskute [one of the leaders of the struggle] appealed that the way in which the youth of England participated in the World War, the youth of Maharashtra should also come forward to participate in the nonviolent struggle…at the end of the program, many offered to be volunteers. One woman gave her gold bangles to help [the struggle]… Ref: Home department file No 555/1921…

“Women’s Participation: The other significant aspect of this campaign was women’s particpation. In the public meeting held on 24th April, the women of Maval had assured that ‘we will not remain at the back end of the struggle...Jaibai Bhoine took up the lead and took part in the satyagraha along with other women. They had a scuffle with the labour...next day too the women took part in the Satyagraha...after two days Jaibai was arrested. She received punishment of three months of hard labour. In spite of this, women continued to participate in the Satyagraha.

“…After the end of the fast he [Bhuskute] started the work of re-energizing the Sangathan [organization] with new vigor. The date of Satyagraha was fixed as 22 January 1923. However, the Government prohibited Bhuskute from entering Mulshi Peta. In spite of this, Bhuskute took a round of the area before the 22nd of January…all Satyagrahis were to assemble and offer a collective Satyagraha on that day. As per the plan forty volunteers and five women assembled at the dam site for the procession. Among these women were the wife of Bhuskute and the wife of his friend Ghareshastri, Smt. Vaishampayen…Due to the sit in of the volunteers the work came to a halt. Later, inspector Shinde arrested them all. They were jailed for fifteen days and the case went on in the court and all of them were sentenced to prison. Maximum sentence was given to Bhuskute. One year prison and fifty rupees fine and other volunteers were awarded three to six months sentence. Women and children were fined fifty rupees and if they did not pay the fine were ordered simple jail term of three months. All of them accepted the punishment…

“On the auspicious day of Hanuman Jayanti, many women and men offered Satyagraha. They were arrested and proceedings were conducted against them in the court…Smt. Ramabai Kulkarni (Talegaon), Smt. Parvatibai Dhogde (Talegaon), Jankibai Ghaisas (Kelshi), Smt. Satyabhamabai Govindrao (Wardha), were all punished/sentenced.

“Satyagraha Mela: Senapati started a campaign and fund raising on the issue of Satyagraha being offered by the volunteers, the jailing of the Satyagrahis and their release as well as the injustice they had to face in jail…Smt. Parvatibai (Dadar) as the organizer was overseeing the work of the Mela/Public Meeting. Her speeches were effective and result oriented…

(Translated from Marathi by me.)

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